Volume 76, Number 4 | June 14 - 20 2006

Gay Pride

A special Villager supplement

Marriage, ‘the gay agenda’ and Mr. Straight Man

By Tim Gay

The topic on the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club’s Yahoo group was Howard Dean’s flip on gay marriage.
And the straight man was adamant.

“… I personally would support gay marriage, but I, as a straight man who considers himself a progressive, resent the idea that unless I support every single point of the gay agenda 1,000 percent, I’m the moral equivalent of a right-wing, Bush-supporting Christian fundamentalist.”

After posting his remarks on May 12, I e-mailed Mr. Straight Man, “Which points of the gay agenda you disagree with?”

There’s been no response.

But it has made me think. What items do we have left that would be disagreeable to a reasonably progressive heterosexual like Mr. Straight Man? (I’ll protect his e-mail identity.)

Marriage is, of course, the big issue. But the recognition of marriage is the final phase of our community’s demand — and expectation — that we share the exact same equal rights as each and every other U.S. citizen. And, like it or not, Mr. Straight Man, it is happening right now.

There’s no better example than to take a trip up the Hudson River to see how times they are a’changing.

Last week, Westchester County Executive Ralph Spano, a heterosexual, signed an executive order making the county the first in the state to recognize gay marriages. The order doesn’t require towns and villages to recognize such unions. Still, from the Yonkers Raceway to Rye Playland, committed lesbian and gay couples now have the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples in the county — like buying a family pass for county parks and beaches.

Across the Tappan Zee Bridge, openly gay Mayor John Shields, elected in 2001, made Nyack the state’s first city to recognize any gay marriage from anywhere in the world. That was in 2004, but it certainly wasn’t his only issue — like any city, there are budgets to balance, trash to haul, parks to plan. Mayor Shields must be doing a good job or else they wouldn’t keep him.

Upriver a ways, New Paltz Mayor Jason West, a heterosexual, made history by officiating over dozens of gay and lesbian marriages two years ago. It certainly caused some national attention, but the media moved away and the town still functions in a civil and civic manner.

Going up the Hudson Valley, there are dozens of lesbians and gays serving in government — Rosendale, Peekskill, Albany and even Plattsburgh with a gay Republican mayor, come to mind.

Kathy Kinsella, my former Chelsea Democratic district leader colleague, moved to Rhinebeck not too long ago. She immediately got involved in the community, and last fall she was elected the town’s highway superintendent — in charge of snow removal, resurfacing and painting lines on hundreds of miles of streets and roads.

Then there is Michael Madsen. He’s your average Joe gay guy. Madsen’s a contractor with a long-term commitment to his neighborhood, the gay community and the city of Kingston.

I read online about Madsen in the June 4 Kingston Daily Freeman. That Sunday was Ulster County’s Gay Pride Day in New Paltz and Madsen was going to D.J. the big post-parade dance at Joe’s East-West in Kingston.

Madsen told the Freeman that when he was in high school somewhere near Woodstock in the early ’80s, he had a secret boyfriend — a lover, actually — who died in an accident. But what’s a mourning teenage gay boy to do in a closet in a rural homophobic environment? Madsen told the Freeman that his only understanding confidante was his grandmother — and he wondered what would have happened if it hadn’t been for her.

\Some eight years ago, vandals opened a yard gate to his Kingston home, moved patio furniture and spray painted “DIE OF AIDS” on his house. Madsen painted over the homophobic slur and later covered his entire house in vinyl siding.

Now, Madsen is a three-term alderman representing the Ninth Ward in the Kingston Common Council. Madsen is a popular legislator — although the council rejected his proposal to reinstall parking meters in business districts. Madsen’s constituents elected him by a 4-to-1 margin over his opponent, and continued to do so for two more elections. In fact, some Kingstoners think Madsen may run for mayor.

And Madsen is among the growing number of local citizens seeking funding for Kingston’s Lesbian and Gay Center.

Two years ago, when homophobes painted “AIDS” in front of a gay club in Kingston, the mayor and others joined Madsen in the cleanup.

“This is not so much for myself, but to put a human face and a known face on what would be an imaginary group of people to some people in our society,” Madsen told the Freeman.

“It is time to put it in print.”

That certainly sums up the gay agenda to me! Hurray to Madsen and the countless L.G.B.T.’ers out there in our towns and cities!

Mr. Straight Man, is this what you disagree with this? Seeing gays and lesbians open, active and in print?

Or are you just infuriated that we can now get family passes to Westchester’s beaches?

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